Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2024 Rankings

College Raptor’s Hidden Gem College Rankings puts a spotlight on amazing schools in the US that you may not have heard of before. When we talk about hidden gems, they all have three things in common: 

  1. They are accessible.
  2. They are good schools (generally within the top third of College Raptor’s overall rankings).
  3. They are “hidden” from the standpoint that they don’t get as many applications (like a Harvard). 

We’ve highlighted one school from all 50 states — and DC, and you might just find your dream college among these diamonds in the rough!

How Do We Define Hidden Gem Colleges?

Every school on this “hidden gem” college rankings list meets the following criteria: 

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors
  • Have a 10% acceptance rate or higher

As a result, hidden gems tend to be smaller schools that are less likely to be known, especially outside their local area or state. For students who would love to attend a smaller college with outstanding programs, these can be top options.

Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2024


Samford University accepts about 83% of students and many will go on to major in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Registered Nursing, and Journalism. Samford has a long history; it was founded in 1841, originally was called Howard College, and was converted to a military hospital during the Civil War.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,682


Known as UAF or simply “Alaska,” is a flagship, land grant, space grant, and sea grant school. Blue and gold are the official colors of UAF and the mascot is Nanook, a mighty polar bear of Inuit legend. Ice hockey, skiing, track, and volleyball are popular sports for the Nanooks. There is a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Fairbanks, AK
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,826


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus is located just north of a wildlife sanctuary and the Willow Creek Reservoir. Alumni of the school have gone on to have impressive careers as astronauts, scientists, military members, authors, athletes, and politicians. 96% receive institutional grant aid while attending, too.
Location Prescott, AZ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,162


John Brown University’s campus sits on 200 acres which features the Cathedral of the Ozarks and the Windgate Visual Art Buildings. The university has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 84% first year retention rate, and 96% of students receive institutional grants. Psychology is the most commonly chosen major, followed up by Registered Nursing and Family and Community Services.”
Location Siloam Springs, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,326


Harvey Mudd College offers programs only related to Science and Engineering. It has an 13% acceptance rate, 97% first year retention rate, and a 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 922


Competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, crimson and slate are the colors of Western Colorado University. 84% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs. Alumni of WCU have gone on to careers in athletics, politics, entertainment, and academics. Popular majors are Business Administration and Management, Biology/Biological Sciences, and Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies.
Location Gunnison, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,548


A largely female school, the University of Saint Joseph was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1932 and only started accepting men in 2018. The campus is well known for its Georgian brick architecture and the entire school is on an 84 acre campus. 78.3% of students who apply are accepted; about 18% of these decide to attend the following fall.
Location West Hartford, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,132


Gallaudet University is a school dedicated to the deaf and hard of hearing. Accepting just under 60% of applicants, they have two official languages: English and American Sign Language. Many students will go on to major in Sign Language Interpretation and Translation, Psychology, Deaf Studies, and Speech Communication and Rhetoric.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,322


Goldey-Beacom College was founded in 1886 and today offers up to a doctorate for its students. 94% of students receive institutional grants from the college, with an average of just over $7,500 per student. Accepting just under 63% of applicants, common majors include Business Administration and Management, Accounting, and Finance.
Location Wilmington, DE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,012


The New College of Florida is a liberal arts school that’s part of the State University System of Florida. The school has a contract system – instead of grades, students are given written evaluations and semester-long contracts, agreeing to pass a certain number of classes each semester. The idea behind this is that it encourages academic experimentation and curiosity for other topics.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 689


One of the Seven Sisters, Agnes Scott College is a women’s undergraduate school but offers co-educational graduate programs as well. The school underwent many name changes since it was founded in 1889, starting with the Decatur Female Seminary. The school has a number of interesting long-standing traditions including Class Colors, Pestle Board, and Black Cat.
Location Decatur, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,114


Chaminade University of Honolulu accepts just over 93% of applicants. With a 71% first year retention rate, the school has a 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Top majors include Registered Nursing, Criminal Justice, and Psychology. Total, the school offers 10 fields of study to undergraduates.
Location Honolulu, HI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,369


Did you know The College of Idaho is the oldest private liberal arts college in the state? The school offers up to a master’s degree, and graduates have gone onto impressive careers in business, politics, law, and sports. The acceptance rate is 46% and the school does not charge students to apply.
Location Caldwell, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,082


Wheaton College was founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 and would become a stop on the Underground Railroad. Business is by far the most popular major at the school. Athletic teams are known as The Thunder. They wear blue and orange and compete in the NCAA Division III in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,885


Wabash College is a small undergraduate men’s school. They accept 62% of applicants and have a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The student paper, The Bachelor, has been in publication since the early 1900’s. Rhetoric and Composition, Economics, and Political Science and Government are among the popular majors.
Location Crawfordsville, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 835


Luther College, which has a first year retention rate of 81%, got its start as a Lutheran seminary by Norwegian immigrants. The upper campus is on the National Register of Historic Places which is a list of buildings and structures that are considered of historical significance. In the lower part of the school, students can see the Upper Iowa River flowing through.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,610


Benedictine College’s core values are built into the four “pillars” of the school which are known as Catholic, Benedictine, Liberal Arts, and Residential. The college’s motto is “Forward. Always Forward.” Its campus is located along the bends of the Missouri River. The most popular majors at the school are Registered Nursing, Theology, and Accounting.
Location Atchison, KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,362


Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts 63% of applicants and 85% will graduate within 4 years. The highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, so you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. Centre College does not charge an application fee for any students interested in attending.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,357


The Centenary College of Louisiana is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River, having been founded in 1885 originally as the College of Louisiana. Students can benefit from an 8:1 student to faculty ratio and experience the 65-acre campus which has over 300 species of plant life. Quite a few students will go on to major in Biology.
Location Shreveport, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 556


Located on a peninsula in the Bagaduce River and Penobscot Bay, the Maine Maritime Academy is a non-federal maritime training school, however students are not required to join the military after graduation. The most popular major is Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. The school admits just over 50% of applicants, has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a first-year retention rate of 81%.
Location Castine, ME
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 888


Founded in 1840, St. Mary’s College of Maryland was originally known as St. Mary’s Female Seminary. It actually shares its campus with Historic St. Mary’s City, which is the state’s first colony and capital. A majority of students attending today are female, but the school is co-educational and has been since 1949.
Location St. Mary’s City, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,520


Mount Holyoke College is the oldest member of the Seven Sisters colleges. Their motto is Psalms 144:12 – “That our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” The campus features a botanic garden, an art museum, and John Payson Williston Observatory. Experimental Psychology, Biology, and Econometrics and Quantitative Economics are commonly chosen majors.
Location South Hadley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,342


Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 96% first year retention rate and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and Science courses. 76% of students will graduate within 4 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,678


Partnered with Saint John’s University for men, the College of Saint Benedict is exclusively for women. The school got its start in 1913 with only six students. Today, resources are shared between the two campuses, a partnership that began in 1955. They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 89% first year retention rate, and 74% four-year graduation rate.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,443


A very small school, Millsaps College was founded in 1890. The college has produced several notable alumni including Johnny Carson, Vic Roby, and Gary Burghoff, among others. Students attending Millsaps will often visit “The Bowl” where Homecoming activities, concerts, and other events are held. Offering over 30 majors, Business Administration is the most popular.
Location Jackson, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 661


This university is named in honor of Harry S. Truman, who was a Missouri native. Popular majors include Business Administration and Management, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Biology. Athletes are known as Bulldogs and their mascots are Spike and Simone. 91.5% of students at Truman State study at the undergraduate level.
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,960


Though the school seal features two lions, Carroll College’s mascot is actually a St. Bernard named Halo. Student athletes compete as the Fighting Saints in sports like track, basketball, and soccer. The campus is located near Mt. Helena. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed by Animal-Assisted Therapy and Biology.
Location Helena, MT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,168


Nebraska Wesleyan University, or NWU, is a private university associated with United Methodists. They have more than 115 undergraduate majors, minors, and pre-professional programs available to students. Competing in the American Rivers Conference, the over 500 athletes are known as the Prairie Wolves and wear black and gold.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,688


Located at the foot of Mount Scorpion Mountain, Nevada State College practices sustainable principles on their 511-acre campus. While NSC is a very ethnically diverse school, 99% of students call Nevada their home state. The most popular major by far is Registered Nursing and about 91% of students receive grant aid.
Location Henderson, NV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,169


Saint Anselm College is the third oldest Catholic college in New England, having been founded in 1889. The school has been the site of presidential policy speeches from John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon as well as several national presidential debates. 100% of students receive institutional aid from the school ($26,816 on average).
Location Manchester, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,954


Drew University goes by the nickname “University of the Forest” due to the fact it is on an 186 acre wooded campus. The school’s motto is “δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε”, which is Greek for "Freely ye have received, freely give” from Matthew 10:8. Blue and green are the school colors and the sports teams are known as the Rangers.
Location Madison, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,092


The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology offers over 30 degree programs, the most popular of which are Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical and Electronics Engineering. A space-grant college, New Mexico Tech has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 75% first year retention rate.
Location Socorro, NM
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,689


Yeshiva University, a research university in Manhattan, has four schools that make up the undergraduate program: Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, Katz School of Science and Health, and Syms School of Business. Campuses, buildings, and facilities can also be found in other NYC boroughs and in Israel.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,056


A women’s college, Meredith offers nearly 40 different majors. Psychology, Biology, and Health and Physical Education/Fitness are the most popular of them. Just under 88% of the incoming class call North Carolina home, with other students coming from neighboring states. Meredith College also has a whole range of traditions, mentoring opportunities, and programs.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,587


Although the University of Mary calls North Dakota its home, campuses can be found all over the world, including in Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru. They accept 81% of applicants, have a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and an 80% first year retention rate. Its campus is located next to the Missouri River.
Location Bismark, ND
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,652


John Carroll University has over 70 majors available to undergraduates, with Speech Communication and Rhetoric, Biology/Biological Sciences, and Marketing/Marketing Management being popular choices. The school was founded in 1886 and became coeducational in 1968. Alumni include Brian P. Cleary, Wade Manning, and Jack Kahl.
Location University Heights, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,922


There are more women than men at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at OCU, where 98% of students receive institutional aid. The school accepts 70% of students who apply. On the field, Oklahoma City University’s Stars are cheered on by other students wearing blue and white and their mascot, a ram named Starsky.
Location Oklahoma City, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,550


Linfield University, a Division III school, offers 55 majors programs. Of those, Elementary Education, Psychology, and Marketing/Marketing Management are the most popular. The school recently opened a new 84,400 square foot science complex to meet Oregon’s demand for skilled STEM workers. Students enjoy a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 81% first year retention rate.
Location McMinnville, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,720


Bryn Mawr is a highly selective school, with an acceptance rate of about 31%. A distinguished women’s college, Bryn Mawr is part of the Seven Sisters College consortium, expanding students’ academic opportunities. With an 90% first year retention rate, Bryn Mawr also has a 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Bryn Mawr, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,742


The second oldest college in the state, Rhode Island College is on an 180 acre campus. Registered Nursing and Psychology are the two most common majors among students at the school. It offers up to the doctor’s degree level of education, though 83% study at the undergraduate level. RIC is a first-choice institution for Hispanic/Latinx students.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,787


Founded in 1854, Wofford College is one of the few southeastern schools that was founded prior to the American Civil War that still exists today. The school has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an impressive 89% freshman retention rate. Wofford has a terrier for a mascot and students wear old gold and black in support of Wofford.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,823


At “Augie,” 87.8% of students are working towards their bachelor’s degree. Students attending AU will follow “The Augustana Plan” for their core curriculum which aims to help with ethics, problem-solving, creativity, communication, and more. Students will go on to study Registered Nursing, Biology, Business Administration and Management, and other majors. 100% of students receive grant aid.
Location Sioux Falls, SD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,086


More commonly known as Sewanee, The University of the South sits on 13,000 acres. These grounds are more commonly known as “The Domain” or “The Mountain.” Many of the stunning buildings are done in a Gothic style including the many chapels. The university also founded the Sewanee Review in 1892, which is the oldest continuous literary magazine in the country.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,704


“Veritatem, Justitiam Diligite” is the motto of the University of Dallas. In English it means “Love Ye Truth and Justice.” The UD Crusaders compete in sports like soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and basketball. 62.4% of the students study at the undergraduate level. The University of Dallas also has a 12:1 student to faculty ratio and an 77% first year retention rate.
Location Irving, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,328


A doctor’s degree is the highest level of education offered at Westminster College. That said, only 24% of students on campus study at the graduate level. They have a good student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 and a first-year retention rate of 75%. Students come from all over the country to attend Westminster. In fact, only 43% of freshmen are Utah natives.
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,280


Bennington College, sitting on 440 acres, was originally a women’s college when it was founded in 1932 and became coeducational in 1969. Today, the school is still predominantly female (63.9% of undergraduates are women). Visual and Performing Arts is the most popular major on campus, followed by Drama and Dramatics, Music, and General Literature.
Location Bennington, VT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 880


Abraham Lincoln once called VMI the “West Point of the South.” This military college is located on the Maury River in the Shenandoah Valley. Red, yellow, and white make up the official colors of the VMI Keydets sports teams. VMI has an acceptance rate of 71%, a first-year retention rate of 82%, and a six-year graduation rate of 77%.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,512


Sharing a campus with Cascadia College, University of Washington's Bothell Campus is actually the largest campus branch in the state. Over 97% of students are from Washington. UW Bothell has over 180 majors, study abroad programs, and weekend/evening college classes available. 85% of students stay at the school after their first year.
Location Bothell, WA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,735


“Luceat Lux Vestra” – Let Your Light Shine is the motto of this small Catholic school. All students who attend Wheeling University will receive institutional grants from the school. Registered Nursing and Business Administration are among the most popular majors. Students wear red, black, and gold and the school mascot is Iggy the Cardinal.
Location Wheeling, WV
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 749


Lawrence University was the second coeducation institution (founded in 1847) in the US. The three most popular majors are Music Performance, Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, and Psychology. Offering only bachelor’s degrees to students, many alumni have gone into careers in politics, music, and sports. The campus sits along the winding Fox River.
Location Appleton, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,426


The University of Wyoming is one of the rare schools that features a live animal mascot - a horse named Cowboy Joe. Another mascot, Pistol Pete, is played by a student in costume. Brown and gold are the official school colors. Also known as UW, the university is a land-grant, space-grant, and public flagship school.
Location Laramie, WY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 11,100

*Note: While Nevada and Wyoming did not have any colleges that qualified under our Hidden Gem Colleges criteria this year, we included the closest match. In the spirit of Hidden Gems, we feel it’s important to include schools from all states so students and families know about the opportunities around them.

Interested in any of these hidden gem colleges? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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